Construction of barrier
Photo: Barel Efraim
The IDF is accelerating the construction of its subterranean barrier on its southern border in a bid to preemptively thwart threats emanating from the Gaza Strip.
According to GOC Southern Command Maj. Gen. Eyal Zamir, nothing would deter Israel’s military from constructing the barrier designed to deliver a decisive blow or severe setback to Hamas’s terror project.
Working on the barrier (צילום: בראל אפריים)
Speaking during a briefing to journalists at the border, Zamir said, “The barrier against the Gaza Strip will be built even if it means fighting a justified incursion against Hamas."
Zamir’s comments came against a background of intelligence gathered by the IDF demonstrating Hamas’s sinister use of resources to expand its tunnel network despite the conspicuous and seemingly deliberate risk to its civilian population.
During a conversation with Ynet Wednesday, Zamir said that expediting the construction of the barrier is not intended to see the tenuous ceasefire with Hamas unravel, but that the IDF would not shy away from another confrontation should Gaza’s rulers choose to launch one.
“We are not indifferent and are striking Hamas’s capabilities without it leading to an escalation, just as we did two nights ago and in other operation,” Zamir added in reference to the airstrikes on Hamas positions in retaliation for a rocket landing in Ashkelon fired from the strip Tuesday.
“Hamas has been deterred and restrained and is doing all it can to avoid an escalation. But Hamas is investing massively for the next campaign,” he emphasized. “The situation can change any moment, and I am working to preserve the calm, strengthen deterrence and in particular improve our readiness for war.”
During the briefing to the journalists, Zamir provided just one example demonstrating Hamas’s strength and determination to enter Israeli territory, which is manifested in its continued construction of tunnels despite the the IDF’s success in obliterating many during Operation Protective Edge in 2014.
According to intelligence information, the digging of two tunnels has been underway in northern Gaza over the last two years, just one kilometer from Israel’s border.
Work on the two tunnels were carried out underneath residential buildings occupied by families while one of the buildings above contains six floors. The second has been dug near to a mosque.
In any showdown with the IDF therefore, the human cost could prove devastating since both are situated on the outskirts of Beit Lahia and the Al-Shati Camp Refugee Camp
Upon analysis of the intelligence collated about the construction of the tunnels, the IDF has mapped out blueprints indicating that underneath the six-story building is a parking lot connecting the tunnel’s entrance shaft to a more elaborate network.
The second tunnel entrance is underneath the home of a Hamas activist, Omar Hamed, who lives with his father, brother wife and five children.
“We will turn the tunnels into a death trap in the next war,” Zamir warned. “Whoever is inside these buildings is endangering himself and his children, and this entire building is a legitimate military target and has entered our bank of objective.”
As part of the IDF project to neutralize the threat of subterranean penetration into Israel, the military is also working on a what is known as an “indicative barrier wall,” which is expected to cost NIS 4 billion.
The concrete barrier will sink to a depth of dozens of meters and also be topped with a six-meter security fence above ground. Together, the high-tech and concrete barriers will be able to detect and destroy every tunnel identified as it approaches.